The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting all mining activities below 160 feet above mean sea level at Sand Land—something that had been allowed in a recently issued permit — pending the court’s decision on whether to issue its own order to prohibit expanded mining at the Noyac sand mine.
That means that while operations can continue at the sand mine, owners cannot dig any deeper.
The State Department of Conservation granted Sand Land a modified permit on June 6 that allowed the mine to dig an additional 40 feet down, and to remain operational for another eight years. The court order, issued on Wednesday, June 26, stops Sand Land from excavating within the new parameters of that permit while the case is considered by the Appellate Division.
Acting Justice James Ferreira is in the process of determining whether to grant a similar order, a preliminary injunction, sought by the petitioners that would halt further vertical expansion at Sand Land throughout the remainder of the court proceeding. In the meantime, the appellate court moved forward with its own order until that decision is made.
“It’s a fantastic win for everyone who drinks water,” said Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, one of the petitioners in this case.
Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, another petitioner, said in an email, “We applaud the appellate court for recognizing the importance of these environmental issues and acting definitively in the public interest.”
About a month ago, on May 30, Justice Ferreira issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting mining activities within the site’s 3.1-acre “Stump Dump,” where vegetative waste was formerly processed and stored adjacent to the mine’s excavated area.
Neighboring property owners, civic groups, the Town of Southampton and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. filed an Article 78 petition in April — Suffolk County joined with its own petition in May — seeking to reverse the decision by the State Department of Conservation to allow Sand Land to expand deeper by 40 feet and remain operational for an additional eight years.
In order to finalize the decision, the DEC had to grant Sand Land a modified permit to allow for such extensions. The petitioners asked the court to stop the DEC from processing the submitted permit application, but Justice Ferreira denied the request. The permit ultimately was granted on June 6.
Petitioners filed a supplemental petition seeking to nullify the issuance of the modified permit. A hearing is scheduled for July 17 at the Albany County Courthouse for the DEC and Sand Land to argue why the court should not issue a preliminary injunction nor allow petitioners to file the supplemental petition.
Last July, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services unveiled a report that showed there was significant contamination to the aquifer beneath the sand mine. Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews, said in a past interview that Sand Land does not believe its operations resulted in the reported groundwater contamination and disagrees with those who argue that the county report confirmed that it did.
“My greatest concern is that the DEC is not doing anything on the water contamination found in our aquifer by the [Suffolk County] Health Department,” Ms. Loreto said. “That is a major concern for all of us.”
As part of the modified permit, Sand Land must establish a groundwater monitoring plan that requires testing groundwater samples at the mine site on a quarterly basis. All test results must be submitted to the DEC for review.